Diagnosing and Treating Groin Pulls

Exercises and Tips

Table of Contents
View All
Table of Contents

A groin pull is an injury to the muscles of the inner thigh. It's also called a muscle strain. The groin muscles, called the adductor muscle group, are made up of six muscles that run from the inner pelvis to the inner part of the femur (thigh bone).

These muscles pull the legs together and help your hips move in other ways. The adductor muscles are important to many types of athletes including sprinters, swimmers, soccer players, and football players.

When a muscle is strained, it is stretched too far. Minor strains pull the muscles beyond their normal range of motion. More severe strains tear the muscle fibers and sometimes tear the muscle completely in two. Most of the time, groin pulls are minor tears of some muscle fibers, but the bulk of the muscle tissue remains intact.

This article describes what groin pulls can feel like and how they are diagnosed and treated. It also explains how to do some simple stretches to prevent pulls in the future.

Symptoms of Groin Strains
Verywell / JR Bee

Groin Strain Symptoms

A groin pull can be quite painful. Groin pulls are usually graded as follows:

  • Grade I groin strain: Mild discomfort, but usually does not limit activity
  • Grade II groin strain: Moderate discomfort that limits the ability to do activities such as running and jumping, and may swell or bruise
  • Grade III groin strain: Severe injury that can cause pain with walking and may involve muscle spasms, swelling, and significant bruising

Severe Groin Pull

If you have symptoms of a severe groin pull, you should see a healthcare provider for treatment.

Signs of a severe groin strain include:

  • Difficulty walking
  • Pain while sitting or at rest
  • Pain at night

Severe groin pulls should be treated because the muscle may have ruptured. If that's the case, you may need surgery to reattach the torn ends of the muscle. This is rare, even in patients with Grade III groin strain injuries.

1:41

Click Play to Learn About Treating a Pulled Groin

This video has been medically reviewed by Oluseun Olufade, MD.

Causes

Groin pulls are often seen in athletes who play ice hockey and soccer. Injuries may be more likely in people with:

  • Less strength in their hip muscles
  • Less effective preseason conditioning
  • Previous injury

To prevent a groin strain, it's really important to have proper conditioning. Athletes, especially hockey and soccer players, should design their workouts to:

  • Strengthen adductor muscles
  • Stabilize the pelvis
  • Build strength in core muscles

Diagnosis

A pulled groin is usually a clear diagnosis. Most athletes know what the injury is before they seek medical attention. However, other conditions can mimic the symptoms of a groin strain. One lesser-known condition is a sports hernia.

Sports hernias have been found in patients with chronic groin strains. A sports hernia is similar to a regular inguinal hernia, which is a weakening of muscles in the abdomen. The symptoms of a sports hernia can be almost the same as those of a groin strain.

These other conditions may also feel and look like a groin strain:  

Treatment

Once a strain is diagnosed, you can begin treatment. Rest, stretching, and oral pain medications are the most common treatments. Surgery is not usually necessary.

Groin strains can be frustrating for athletes and weekend warriors alike. You may want to return to your activities before you're fully recovered. Exactly how long it takes to recover will depend on how severe the pull is and how quickly your body tends to heal.

Sticking to your treatment plan can help ensure that you heal as quickly as possible. It is important to allow your body the time it needs to heal completely. Otherwise, you may risk another injury—and starting the healing process all over again.

Working with a physical therapist or an athletic trainer may help.

Stretches to Prevent Injury

If you have a groin strain, a stretching program will help you recover. Simple stretches can help ease the symptoms and keep new strains from occurring.

As a general rule, stretches should not hurt. There should be a gentle pulling sensation, but this should not be painful.

Squatting Adductor Stretch

The first stretch is the squatting adductor stretch:

  1. Squat to the ground with one leg in front of your body.
  2. Allow your opposite leg to extend behind you.​
  3. Stretch your legs apart by gently pushing over your front knee.

A Different Adductor Stretch

This adductor stretch is done while standing:

  1. Stretch one leg out to the side, keeping your other leg under your torso.
  2. Bend the knee underneath your torso to lower yourself and stretch the muscles of the inner thigh of the opposite leg.
  3. Your outstretched leg should have a straight knee, and you should feel the stretch on the inner thigh.

Butterfly Stretch

The butterfly stretch is done in a sitting position:

  1. Sit with your feet together and knees bent.
  2. Grasp your feet with your hands.
  3. Stretch your knees down toward the ground.
  4. Do not bounce. Feel the stretch along your inner thigh.

Cross-Leg Stretch

The cross-leg stretch is done while sitting:

  1. While sitting, cross one leg over the other.
  2. Press the knee of the crossed leg across the body to open up the hip.

This stretch will emphasize the muscles of the inner thigh and front of the thigh.

Summary

A groin pull is an injury to the inner thigh muscles. Most of the time, these strains involve small tears to the muscle fibers. They can be treated with rest, stretching, and over-the-counter medications.

Sometimes, however, more severe muscle tears can happen. In rare cases, these tears have to be repaired with surgery. If you have a severe groin pull, see a healthcare professional. You may need more significant treatments, or another condition such as a hernia could be causing the problem.

To prevent groin pulls, stretch regularly. You may also want to include exercises that strengthen your adductor, pelvic, and core muscles.

A Word From Verywell

If you're not sure if you have a groin pull or your symptoms do not improve quickly, it's a good idea to see a healthcare provider. Other conditions can be confused with a groin pull, and they may need different treatments.

Was this page helpful?
2 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Suarez JC, Ely EE, Mutnal AB, et al. Comprehensive approach to the evaluation of groin pain. J Am Acad Orthop Surg. 2013 Sep;21(9):558-70.

  2. Lynch TS, Bedi A, Larson CM. "Athletic Hip Injuries" J Am Acad Orthop Surg. 2017 Apr;25(4):269-279.